There’s recently been a lot of media buzz around the fabled “electric” car. Many manufacturers, both foreign and domestic, have sold hybrid electric/gasoline propelled car for several years. The recent success and availability of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt has many rethinking their current, gas-guzzling machine in favor of a purely electric car.
Believe it or not, it’s possible for homegrown mechanics and eco-warriors alike to convert their gasoline-powered vehicle into a solely electric-powered machine. The process is involved and could potentially set you back anywhere from $5000 to $10,000 or more depending on the availability of certain parts. Before you begin ripping out your fuel tank, learn about how electric cars work and the basic steps required to perform the conversion successfully.
How an Electric Car Works
The actual mechanics behind an electric car are deceptively simple. The manufacturers begin by eliminating anything dealing with gasoline from the original design, including the gas tank, muffler, exhaust, engine, starter, radiator, fuel lines and the coolant tank. All of these parts are now rendered unnecessary, as the electric car is only powered by three key components: an electric motor, controller and multiple rechargeable batteries.
From the outside, an electric car looks quite similar, if not identical, to a vehicle powered by a gasoline engine. It’s only when you turn the ignition that you’ll notice the distinct absence of any noise, as the typical “vroom, vroom” created by vehicles is caused by the gasoline-powered motor.
Performing the Conversion
A warning before attempting this conversion: If you’re a novice in the garage, or don’t have the money and tools necessary to complete this complex adaptation, rethink the process or at the very least, find someone with a backyard-constructed electric car to help you along the way. There is always a domestic and import auto parts warehouse you can go to for assistance on any car parts you may need for your vehicle.
- The first step to a gasoline/electric vehicle conversion is to find the right car. You probably don’t want to rip out the engine and gas tank from your 2012 Hyundai Sonata, as this will surely invalidate your warranty. Your best bet is to purchase a working beater that features a manual transmission; the reason for which will become more evident later.
- Next, it’s time to secure the new motor, batteries and controller for your electric car. There are many rechargeable batteries on the market and the ultimate decision will probably be based on your budget. In general, it’s also wise to purchase the components required in a kit, which means they already fit together and have been tested by a professional for safety and reliability.
- Continue your odyssey by ripping out the vehicle’s clutch, gas tank, radiator, starter, exhaust and engine. Once again, this is where having a well-stocked garage, particularly a hoist, will come in handy.
- It’s now time to mount your adapter plate, which allows you to bolt the new motor to the transmission. It’s possible to create your own adapter plate, but chances are you’ll need have this crucial component custom made; unless of course you purchased a fully-stocked kit.
- A reduction gear is then added to maximize the motor’s efficiency. Be aware that this component is sometimes not available in kits, and therefore not necessary for your project.
- The controller is mounted next, which connects the motor to the transmission. It’s crucial to now find the ideal spot for your batteries. It’s a wise idea to create a harness or brackets to keep your batteries secure inside the trunk before wiring them to the controller and motor.
- It’s time now to hook up the air conditioner, power steering to the motor before installing a vacuum pump to operate the power brakes, if applicable.
- A controller is also necessary, which allows you to regulate the power created by the batteries in relation to the motor. There are several controllers available and the choice depends on your need for acceleration versus efficiency and top speed.
- You’ll need to lastly hook up the ignition switch in order to turn all of your new battery powered components on. Once this is done and you perform a few tweaks, your electric car is ready for the road.
Once again, this is a basic overview of the conversion process. If you decide to take the plunge and rework your gasoline-powered vehicle, keep in mind that purchasing a conversion kit and making sure you have all the funds necessary, is a wise idea. Otherwise, it’s best to enlist the help of a seasoned mechanic or someone that has performed the conversion him or herself.
This post was written and contributed by Edson Farnell. Edson writes about various automotive topics. Many of Edson’s friends refer to him as the Auto Parts Geek.